I’m a “None.”

That’s what pollsters are calling the many Americans who on recent national surveys claims no religious affiliation, who answers “none” to the question about what religion they are.

The ranks of the Nones have ballooned in recent years, making this the first time in U.S. history when the fastest growing religious affiliation is no religious affiliation. In 1972, about 7 percent of Americans identified as having no formal religious affiliation, which remained unchanged until 1990, when it reached 8 percent. Between 1990 and 2012, however, the percentage of the religious unaffiliated more than doubled to 19.6 percent, making it the second most significant “religious affiliation” next to Christianity in this country. Among younger Americans (those who have come “of age” since 1990), the numbers are more staggering. According to some sources, between 25 percent and 30 percent of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation—four times greater than in any previous generation.

One might assume that Nones do not believe in God; this is not the case. Fewer than 15 percent consider themselves atheists. For the most part, it seems, Nones are curious about spirituality—even deeply interested in it. We may have rejected organized religion, but we embrace transcendent feelings. We believe in God, though we might call it “the universe” or “the divine intelligence that created all this.” Most of us have reverence for a power greater than ourselves and we crave a deeper understanding of its significance.

This blog is a platform to share the results of a project I started two years ago: an exploration of religion from the perspective of someone who grew up without any (statisticians call us “Nones”). I decided to start with Christianity and see where it took me. My plan is to continue on through Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam.

It offically began when I plucked the Worship Directory out of my local paper in my new hometown. I had always swept right past it, but suddenly there it was: an entire page dedicated to listing the places of worship in my community. I studied it carefully. I found names I recognized but knew almost nothing about, then the denominations splintered into groupings that were foreign to me. In alphabetical order, the list read: Assembly of God, Baptist, Bible, Catholic, Christian Science, Church of Christ, Church of God, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Evangelical, Inter-Denominational Charismatic, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, Non-Denominational, Presbyterian, Quaker, Reformed, Unitarian Universalist, and United Church of Christ. (I also noted a listing for a mosque, an Islamic center, and a “Jewish community” that doesn’t have a synagogue but gathers for worship and fellowship.) I counted over 50 options in total.

I decided to go–to all of them.

Along the way, I talk to, sing with, and worship alongside believers. We eat and pray together; with some, I hold hands, celebrate, become friends, and exchange emails. Through it all, I try to understand the ways in which what they believe might help us all.

22 thoughts on “About

  1. Corinna: I read your recent article in the Times and this “about” post with interest….I’ll tell you upfront: I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus. I grew up in church and assumed I was a Christian until I became one. That was after I nearly died in Vietnam and had time to reflect and question God and wonder about all the stuff I’d heard in Sunday school, and the best thing that ever happened was that I got honest and realized I didn’t know about any of it…perhaps Jesus was just a cosmic Santa Claus. The key issue for me quickly became the resurrection–if that was true, then I knew the rest of it was true. That, however, didn’t warm me up to a lot of churchianity I found. Christians (such as those lined up on the political right) are often the biggest stumbling block for anyone to take Jesus seriously. One of my favorite quotes is from Gandhi. After spending time in “Christian” Britain, he said this: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I’m sure you’ll discover that true as you go to the different churches. I wish you well in your search. Jesus didn’t have much use for the “religious” types in his day, but he loved the people who were real, and those who listened and “heard” what he had to say. The only advice I would offer, if you haven’t already done so, is to spend time in the four Gospel accounts, getting to know Jesus and listening to his voice. If I can be of any help, let me know. I live in Sunland, near Los Angeles with my wife, Michelle.

  2. I love going to church. Out makes me a better person and I feel closer to God. I am thankful my mother made me go to church. As a child I wanted to be a missionary. I also went to church with my grandma. The women in the church I grew up in influenced me very much and they were very giving. Jesus gave his life so we could live forever and I am very thankful.

  3. I think your project is absolutely awesome!! I am a playwright who writes documentary plays, thus I totally admire and salute your eagerness to jump in and see what’s really there; and I’m a rather disaffected Unitarian minister who lives in Washington state — thus very interested to see what you will think of us! I do feel that many, many “nones” could find happy, meaningful community in the liberal churches (UU, united church of Christ, etc) but are afraid to venture into a church because of the lamentable influence of the Christian Right. I’m truly excited about your bold experiment and wish you very well on your journey! Cheers, Amanda

  4. Corinna: your blog is demonstrating to me that there are a LOT of people still genuinely searching for answers to lots of life’s big questions. Thanks and keep it up! Amanda, your post confirms again what I keep seeing and why so many (‘nones’, etc.) are not even venturing: negativity and judgmentalism (not only because of the ‘Christian’ Right). Perhaps you’ve heard (a favorite preacher’s story) about the husband and wife on their way to church arguing all the way, but walk in to church all smiles–everyone I know laughs because we identify with it–which reveals the fundamental dishonesty in many of our evangelical churches and fear of being judged and so there is often no real community. We found we could not go back to a church we had been deeply involved in for some 30 years because having the right (read: ‘correct’) system of doctrine and ‘right’ living became the only real path to acceptance and any serious questions led to discipline. People don’t seem to have a problem with Jesus (e.g., my Gandhi quote above), and I think church should be a community of people who love and enjoy the community of others who celebrate and follow him.

  5. I simply can not understand how someone in todays world could still “Believe”. In my mind sicence has brought so many “God” factors into question, that it has disproven the Bible. If you are
    a good person and serve your fellow man, you will die happy! Ed

    • That’s a good way to live, but when you pass from this world into the next, God said, “If you don’t believe in me, you will have no place.” And, science has brought no God factors (?) into question.

  6. Ed, I fully meant to be as blunt as I was–but I hope you weren’t offended by it….I think it’s really important that we all face our assumptions (like, the Bible has been disproved). I had grown up assuming I believed in God and the Bible was true until I was confronted with my mortality (wounded in Vietnam) and the ease and hollowness with which I held on to those assumptions. It took me a couple years of searching before I was satisfied and could not deny what I had found….The search is part of what makes us human and might just demand everything….but is worth it….and, in the end, is not totally up to you…

  7. Corinna, I read your story in “The Dallas Morning News”. I believe alot of people are looking. People are looking for something. I belive that someting we’re looking for is ” Our Creator”. When we find Him, and let Him come into our hearts, He will put peace in our hearts and we will find meaning and purpose in our life. My advice also is to read the Bible so that ,whomever is looking, may get to know “Our Creator”. Jesus says”Behold, I stand at door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” My best to you Corinna.

  8. I found your blog through an article of yours featured on Gawker. I commend you for what you are doing, and am interested to see where this Journey takes you, and what it can potentially teach all of us about faiths different than our own.

  9. Corinna

    Loved your article on Gawker about Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since I am a former elder that escaped from the Watchtower it resonated with me very much. Now I have an online ministry and outreach setup for those that are trying to leave the mind-control of these well-intentioned people at JWStruggle dot com.

    Anyway, I love your writing style and have forwarded your article to many of my friends. Good luck with your project and keep it up!

    With Kind Regards,
    Eric Bottorff

  10. I am a pastor, teacher, theologian and I like history, science, math, but I am NOT what one would call an intellectual. I am only average intelligence, but I do LOVE to watch human nature in action. I find your writing fascinating, enlightening and inspiring to the extent that you are doing something in your “quest for truth!” Oh and yeah, I’m a fundamental, full-gospel Bible believer. But I also TRY not to suffer what afflicts many Christians and that is “keeping God in a box!” Don’t get me wrong. I believe the Bible implicitly. But I also believe many things that Bible believers state as fact are only allegory. I believe in the Character and Nature of God and one of those Characteristics is Omniscience. Most Bible believers automatically look at that word and right off the bat say that it means God is all-knowing. Why? Because their “preacher” said it and that preacher’s preacher said it and so on and so forth. Look at the word; Omni in its simplest form does mean all. But the rest, science, it its simplest “child-like” terminology could mean knowing or to know, but we’re adults right? What is Science and when it comes down to it, what intelligence behind the laws of science is there. Christians, the majority, can believe that God created ALL of creation in 6, look at that, SIX days and yet the same God who Created this WHOLE Universe also said that in the last days knowledge shall be on the increase. Evidently that only applies to the world and not to Christians! HE CREATED the Science and Sciences that mankind is trying to fathom!!! Just because the Bible says “one day is as a thousand years” to the Lord, every Bible reading Christian jumps on the bandwagon and says see, the world is ONLY six thousand years old!!! Give me a BREAK!!! Jesus also told Peter to forgive 7 times 70 times because Peter thought he would be doing good to FORGIVE an offense 7 times!! (There are Christians who believe forgiveness for an offense only has to be given 490 times! No KIDDING!!) Jesus was making a point, stating a principle, get it, a principle not literal!!! We are to forgive forever!!! Peter doing exactly to us as Jesus did with him when he stated, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2Peter 3:8)
    Come on Christians, give me a break and use the God-created gray matter that the Lord created for you to use. No wonder that today, Christians have no authority and no say and no foundation! Instead of doing like we are supposed too and studying the Word of God to show ourselves approved, we are happy to pay the preacher to do all the work for us and then we swallow hook, line and sinker all the lies that he has swallowed, etc, etc.
    My God, my Heavenly Father CREATED EVERYTHING for mankind! Everything and that includes the sciences so that man may fulfill the prophecy spoken by Daniel so long ago that our knowledge will increase. Why is it so hard to believe this earth could have taken 14 billion years to form when time to God means absolutely nothing, and yet you can believe something that defies the very NATURE and CHARACTER of God Himself??? AND by the way, I am not a proponent of evolution in the sense that one species turns into another. I DO believe that God CREATED man to be in the character and image of God Himself! Remember, even though it is taught as fact, evolution is still only a misguided theory! Nuff preaching!
    Corinna, I’m sorry, I love your writing and if you let me, I hope to follow your journey as you search for what is Truth to you. I hope you find it. But I want to at least go along for the journey as I am always looking for inspiration in new areas, it’s just some of those that I endearingly call Brother and Sister, I sometimes wonder if WE are reading the same Bible! Sorry for taking so much space. I tend to get that way if you have seen my blog. I am passionate if not anything else!! God bless you as you seek the Truth!

    • Hi Pastor Roland, I welcome your point of view and am happy to have you along for the journey. Thank you for being here. I hope you’ll participate in the conversation as we go along.

  11. Glad to catch up on your blog. I read your LA Times article (around new year) stating your intention. Like some readers, I too am a pastor and commend you for seeking to learn (the whole mining religion). Of course, the Bible commends “seeking”, “learning” and “calling” on God to show Himself. May your journey be “more than you could ask for, or imagine”. God bless,

  12. read your article in salon and loved it – terrific writing — so happy to find your blog — can’t wait to check it out :)

  13. Pingback: Episode 1 : Corinna Nicolaou of “One None Gets Some” | The Two Cities

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